Trade union Solidarity has declared a dispute with Telkom, saying the telecommunications provider’s voluntary retrenchment programme may lead to forced retrenchments.
Solidarity spokesman Jaco Kleynhans said in a statement on Tuesday that Telkom’s refusal to agree to a moratorium on forced retrenchments indicated that Telkom had plans for such retrenchments.
“Solidarity is convinced that the voluntary retrenchment of members of management that Telkom is trying to bring about is merely a precursor to forced retrenchments at the company and that the [Commission for Conciliation Medication and Arbitration (CCMA)] must intervene in the process urgently,” said Kleynhans.
He said Solidarity had insisted that a moratorium be imposed on forced retrenchments shortly after Telkom’s plans for voluntary retrenchments became known. “However, the company was not prepared to agree to the moratorium, which according to Solidarity is a clear indication that Telkom has plans for forced retrenchments.”
The union declared the dispute in terms of section 189 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) after nearly 2 530 members of management received a memorandum on voluntary retrenchment packages in mid-April.
The matter was referred to the CCMA.
Kleynhans said the union felt the retrenchment process was not being handled in a transparent manner and that the criteria for voluntary retrenchments had a racial element.
“The company clearly no longer regards the retention of expertise as a priority and is trying to dispose of experts by means of unfair processes,” he said.
“According to the company’s proposal on the voluntary retrenchments, race and gender can be used as criteria to determine whose applications for voluntary severance packages are approved.”
Kleynhans said Telkom had to comply with section 189 of the LRA by consulting with trade unions regarding the planned retrenchments.
“After several attempts, Telkom is still not prepared to consult with the trade unions, therefore the CCMA must intervene. The lack of transparency in Telkom’s conduct to date arouses concern and shows that there are hidden motives that must be exposed to ensure that employees’ rights are protected,” he said.
Telkom’s acting chief for human resources, JC Smit, said Telkom’s process did not fall under section 189, as there was no intention to retrench any employee.
“All that Telkom has done is create a ‘facility’ and an incentive for those managerial employees who wish to voluntarily leave the company, to do so in a structured fashion,” said Smit. — Sapa